Birth medical jargon explained

Our midwife clues you in on the medical language that will be used as you go into labour…

Your birth notes may look confusing…use our guide to understand them

Time for an orchestra and more tape measures – or so you’d think. Doctors sometimes need to help your baby find her way out, and that can lead to some strange words being bandied about…


Centimetres dilated

When your midwife asks if she can examine you to find out, “how many cm dilated your cervix is,” she isn’t heading for your vagina with a tape measure! A gentle vaginal examination using two fingers will give her an estimation of how far open your cervix is. She’s done this a lot, hence being able to estimate ‘how far’ dilated you are.

Instrumental birth

No live orchestra for this one – it means that the doctors may need to use special equipment to help with the delivery. These instruments include ventouse (a suction cup) and forceps (special metal tongs), both of which help to gently pull your baby out. A caesarean section is also sometimes referred to as an instrumental birth.

Birth notes explained

Your birth notes will probably seem like a lot of scribbles and capital letters. Before you hit the Internet search engine, here are the main ones you might see:

  • LMP: Last menstrual period
  • EDD: Estimated date of delivery (your due date)
  • VE: Vaginal delivery (not VD for obvious reasons!)
  • ARM: Artificial rupture of membranes (when the midwife breaks your waters)
  • CTG: Cardiotocograph (a machine that monitors the baby’s heartbeat)
  • SROM: Spontaneous rupture of membranes (your waters breaking)
  • NAD: Nothing abnormal detected
  • FMF: Foetal movements felt, or ‘your baby’s having a wriggle’
  • FHHR: Foetal heart heard and regular

Pain relief

Ah, Hollywood. It has a lot to answer for. There’s either the comedy ‘giving birth in an emergency’ scenario or the woman screaming, “just give me the drugs!” All this can leave a mum-to-be confused, so here are your basic options:

  • Hypno-birthing: A deep state of relaxation using breathing techniques (learned in classes or from CDs) that help you cope with pain and fear of birth.
  • Epidural: An injection of anaesthetic into the lower back, given by an anaesthetist, providing complete pain relief for about 90 per cent of women.
  • Water birth: Water is considered by many mums to provide very effective pain relief, and also aids relaxation.
  • Gas and air: Mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas), which you breathe in as you have a contraction. Doesn’t remove the pain, but helps you to detach from it.
  • Pethidine/meptid: These painkillers are injected into your thigh or buttock. They can relax you during labour, but won’t stop all the pain.

After the birth

The strange language doesn’t stop once you’ve given birth. From your milk supply to your healing ‘down there’, there’s more to come. Remember, if you hear something you’re not sure about, your midwife and health visitor are there to answer any questions.

Watch out for these being mentioned in the first few days after you give birth…

  • Lochia: This is the blood-loss you experience after the birth. Initially like a heavy period, it then lessens, but can continue on and off for up to six weeks.
  • Sutures: These stitches are sometimes required following a vaginal birth, and always with a caesarean.
  • Milk coming in: Breasts become ‘engorged’ and tender as your milk is produced, particularly on the third or fourth day following the birth.
  • Let-down reflex: A tingling in the breasts following the release of oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates the muscles of the breast to squeeze out the milk.
  • Baby blues: Hormonal changes post-birth can cause you to feel tearful.

Read our other jargon busters about pregnancy and your bump.

Read more…


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